Warm Wednesday Words: The Healer on the Journey

Lately I’m latching on to my healer a little tighter, and He has me securely in His Hand and under His wing on this lap of my journey, as always.  There is an incredible peace that is present in a relationship with a Heavenly Father who knows and loves me.  “He wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”  Job 5:17-18 (NIV)   Whether we suffer physically or emotionally, in our weakness, He is made strong.  When I’m misunderstood or misunderstand someone else, I can still trust Him… “Hallelujah!… for true and righteous are his judgments.” Rev 19:1-2 (NIV)  I “remember there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1), and I’m patient with myself because God is completing the work in me that He began and has a few prayer warriors praying for me prolifically with joy and the affection of Christ Jesus  and who value my particular contribution to the gospel.  Thus I can grow in wisdom and discernment and overflow with the same kinds of prayers for others partnering in the gospel.

encouragementIn Ps. 3:3, David, who experienced a wide gamut of “good” and “bad” from the Lord,  recorded that feeling of being protected by God, “But You, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” (Ps. 3:3)  Zephaniah also spoke, not only of the knowing of a mighty Savior, but of a tender and personal love; i.e. the kind of love that warms a heart and prompts goodwill.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”  (Zeph. 3:17)

As long as I remember whose offspring I am, and receive whatever He has in His hand for me with the grace and truth He has lavished on me, then I can live and move and exist freely and fully loved in Him.

Are you under His wing in your journey?  It’s a “safe” place to be.  Have you a few prayer warriors who value you?  Are you that for at least a few others?

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Warm Wednesday Words: More and More

taught by God to loveRecently I was given encouraging words from several different people abounding more and more in love  on the very weekend I struggled with fresh grief.  Most of the encounters were not “planned”, but I have no doubt they were prearranged by my loving Heavenly Father.

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The first encouragement came from a friend and mentor who shot a random friendly text to me.   She knows the mutual blessing in choosing a few uplifting words.

words as apples of goldThe second “abounder” was an acquaintance I happened to see who went straight from a casual greeting to an unexpected and genuine compliment on something I had done and how it had blessed her.  The words were as a surprise shower of  light beams diffusing healing balm onto my bruised heart.  Then there were a couple elderly sisters in Christ from my church who just did what most elderly “sisters” in the church have learned more and more to do so well; i.e., one chatted with much humble empathy, specific encouragement, and a hug, and one lavished praise about me to my husband, just as she often does to me about him.   The final dose of medicine God administered to me was from laughter and good times with family during a planned birthday celebration for Tony.   Every one of our children connected with us one way or another (and that alone is a blessing) but being able to spend time together eating, talking, supporting and laughing certainly adds to the blessing.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
children, a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons born in one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them. (Ps. 127:3-5)

In “The Children of the Day” bible study on Thessalonians, it is clear that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy had a handle on encouraging since they acknowledged twice in chapter four of the first book that the Thessalonians were pleasing God and also loving each other well, and to do so even more.   Beth Moore points out that we are commissioned to abound more and more in living for Christ, and that, indeed we will increase in something, be it living the Christian way, or otherwise, which soon enough becomes the opposite.  She says,  “More and more one direction will force its antithesis into less and less….Human emotions have an inherent propensity to grow.  We can hate more and more or we can love more and more….(And about love)…You and I have no power to affect divine love.  It is perfect.  All we are left to do is ask to know it more and more.  And right there in the increase, a miracle of decrease is forced into play:  as we are more and more aware of His love, we fear less and less.”
perfect love casts out fear

I want to abound in love more and more so that I am bothered less and less by those who are unable and/or unwilling to love as the Lord does, and be able to abound in forgiveness, grace and love toward the unloving.  After all, we’ve all been there in that horribly blind spot in which our own vision sees ourselves less needy then we really are and God less magnificent then He really is.  Paul and his co-writers said this in 1 Thess. 4:9, “About brotherly love:  you are taught by God to love one another.”  God will always raise up some who will seek to abound in love more and more because they are as one taught to love by God, Himself.  That kind of love is portrayed on the cross and it doesn’t play favorites because it is God’s love in us, not something we contrive!  Of the three gifts that remain, love is the greatest.

29df00ac3a23e0edc1268ddd97267b20So what is my response to being overwhelmed with encouragement, even as I occasionally struggle with grievous things?   Though I try to show kindness and encouragement, anyway, it is to do so even more!  1 Thes. 4:10b, “But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more.”

grace abounds in deepest waters

In this season of your life and in this very moment you are abounding in something…even more.  Is it what you’d like to abound in?  If so, how can you practice it “more and more“?

Warm Wednesday Words: The Rock that’s Higher

There are days…no seasons…when I have to seek a higher Rock.  Those times can feel like I’m between a rock and a hard place.  But when I recognize Who truly is my Rock and Redeemer, I’m no longer in that hard place, I’m both set upon the Rock and sheltered by Him; i.e. The Rock of Ages.  My circumstances may not feel better, but my focus changes and they no longer are the big issue I thought they were.   Not that God has forgotten about them, nor asks me to.  He just grows my faith in His sweet and personal love that He will shine through it for those who have eyes to see and cause joy even in pain.  He gives beauty for ashes.  Everything is transformed in the light of His grace into something with His beauty stamped all over it even in our weakness.

10369221_10202873739737365_5990994660212438186_nJust as flowers are more prolific on the plant that has been through a season of winter. drought or stress then on a plant that has been over indulged with rich nitrogen, so we are more fruitful for Christ when our roots have been forced to reach deeper, then when we aren’t stretched by our circumstances.

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Oswald Chambers puts it well in the May 14 devotional, “My Utmost for His Highest”, ‘The only thing that will enable me to enjoy the disagreeable is the keen enthusiasm of letting the life of the Son of God manifest itself in me….If God puts you there, He is amply sufficient.”

10363953_10202873935142250_6242588642847180332_nWhen I think I’m being pressed beyond what I can do, I remember 2 Cor. 12:9, “’My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.

 

Warm Wednesday Words: Grace Inspires

amazing grace how sweet the sound

When I think about the grace that has been given me at the cross, I am humbled and deeply inspired to respond in devotion.  I know that I share with human kind the desperately wicked heart malady that birthed sin back in the Garden of Eden, and I am forever grateful for a Savior who chose excruciating affliction in my place.  He vacated His throne to be humbly born and live among us, suffered every kind of trial known to man, was tortured leading up to the cross, carried the tribulation to completion, paying every debt while hanging for all to see on a cross.  There, pride was nailed in place by the King of Kings, who knew its insidious evil.  He refused to indulge in it.

He is Risen

I am amazed that during those hours of extreme pain, He spurned relief because of His great love for the likes of you and me.   He could’ve called ten thousand angels.  But He didn’t.  He had us on His mind.  And that’s a claim no one can make undergoing that kind of suffering.  Not one of us would languish in agony until death for our enemies, when we had a choice to end it with one word.   Amazing grace.

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I wholeheartedly concur with Carl Boberg,  “And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing; Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in; That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”

my God how great thou art

That grace that saved me inspires a response.  It calls me to devotion, obedience and action.  If I were to go on about my life like nothing ever happened and change is not vital, I  would need to take another look at whether I had ever truly repented.  At the very “least” (really not so “least” at all), pride would be replaced with humility and gratefulness.  If I continuously and knowingly take advantage of the grace I received as a result of Christ’s suffering and victory over sin, something is very wrong.   In regard to this very subject God uses Paul to say in Romans 6, “By no means!

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To quote another hymn writer, George Bennard,  “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, Till my trophies at last I lay down; I will cling to the old rugged cross, And exchange it some day for a crown.”  Do you cherish the salvation that is offered you because of the cross?  How does it inspire you to respond?

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Warm Wednesday Words – Encouraging Words

ok to not be ok

build someone upWhat are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?  I have days when nothing seems to go right.  I have waltzed into a prayer meeting thinking it was church dinner night, casserole in hand and hungry guest in toll.  I have woken up from a nap in a fog and suddenly realized I was due to have a meal to a family with new twin babies in less than an hour without a single dinner plan formulated.  I have texted an unknown recipient for weeks thinking it was one of my kids.  I have forgotten the minutes for the church business meeting numerous times.  I could list many more bumbling annoyances and catastrophes, but you get the idea and probably have a few of your own.

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I have been overwrought on occasion by much more horrific pitfalls than self induced trivial embarrassments.  Like most, I have been mired down and burdened by misunderstandings, criticisms, gossip, slander, multiplied tensions, financial hardships, broken relationships, heartaches, troubling addictions and more.

blessings through heartaches

When I am having a bad day or going through a trial, these are some of the words that comfort me most, whether regarding the affliction or not:

“It’s going to be ok.  Maybe not just yet, but I know it will”.

“You have my support.”

“Here, this is for you.” (Anything that implies thoughtfulness).

“I know how you must feel.”

“I like what you’ve done,” or “Good job”, can make any little accomplishment worth the trouble.

While the words don’t need to be perfect, just any kind response speaks love and is far more comforting than the neglectful or disdainful silence of no response at all.  Some of the most poignant “words” to me are the silent words from a knowing smile or a tender hug.

animal hugsSo, back to Holley Gerth’s writing prompt for this week.  What are the encouraging words you want to hear when you’re having a hard day?  Can you think of a place for them in someone’s life this week?

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http://holleygerth.com/

Click on the above link for more posts on encouraging words.  You may like Holley’s devotional,  “If we could have Coffee” and the just released book “You’re Going to be Okay”.  These are books I devour like a medicine to dispel discouragement.

(In)Courage Friendships

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Today marks a fresh start for friendships as registration begins for a new session of (In)courage groups for Christian women.  In these groups you will find amazing camaraderie, heartfelt prayer support, cheering  you on type encouragement, humble empathy and more.  There is an empty spot needing what only you can pour into it among like minded friends.

As C.S. Lewis said in his book “The Four Loves”,  ‘Friendship arises out of mere companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden)..It is when…they share their vision – it is then that friendship is born….The opinion of this little circle, while I am in it, outweighs that of a thousand outsiders, as friendship strengthens.  It will do this even when my friends are far away.’

I can attest to this in the (In)Courage groups I have been in for near empty nesters in the last couple years. Even though I have been involved in different groups during different sessions, the friendships formed have been tenacious.  If you are approaching an empty nest or already knee deep in finding your way through that season, there are several groups just in that category alone for you to choose from.  But the mind-blowing thing is that there are over fifty groups covering a a large variety of interests you can choose from to connect with friends who will cheer you on shoulder to shoulder while pointing you to Christ in a closed group setting.  Check out this (In)Courage link and find a group for you this week.  You will not regret it.

Warm Wednesday Words: You are Loved Even, and Especially, in the Storm

storm

You are loved even when you’re in a dark place, whether the dark place be a blurry focus that is difficult to correct or whether by reality.  Some weather storms much closer to home than others.  It can feel like you are that little tree bending in the fierce wind.   Life’s storms can be huge, leaving staggering devastation in their wake, or they can be small and short, still causing occasional damage.   I can’t tell you the outcome of your storms, or all the reasons why they may occur.   But I can tell you that when you submit to Christ and keep your focus on Him, He will give comfort, direction, and correction.  You can even expect miraculous intervention in either storm diversion or divine character changes in you, such as strength, joy and endurance as you walk through trials unscathed.  The latter can be a greater good.  In retrospect, you will see it.

storm clouds on horizon

I hope that when the next storm clouds of life appear in your horizon, you seek God in prayer, first recognizing that we all contribute to “storms” on occasion, and second, that even if you did nothing to deserve your current circumstances, YOU ARE LOVED by a God who sees you and knows what you are dealing with.  When you truly seek Him, He will rescue you in ways that you know are personal and precious.  The more you trust Him, the sweeter He becomes to you, both during the storm, and reflecting on Him once it has passed.  He becomes your Storm Chaser, Comforter, Healer and the most personal Lover of your Soul.  You become aware that you were the Apple of His Eye all along, and gain confidence in His strength in you.

stand strong

You are not defined by love that wanes or seems to fail.  You do not fall down when your props are all knocked out from under you, whether from a health calamity, job loss, financial problems, friendship/reputation issues, etc.  You are never alone.  In marriage, whether you are a husband or wife, God reaches out to you with comfort and answers.  He soothes your broken heart with personal words urging you to march on because He has crushed the enemy.  And He helps you know who the ultimate enemy is, and that you are, at times, just as much the enemy as anyone else on this messed up planet, so there’s never an excuse for not forgiving , restoring and counting your blessings.

rainbow

Don’t lose sight of the fact that rainbows come after storms, smiles after tears, joy after sorrow and rewards after steadfastness.  With endurance you can become that tree that is deeply rooted, has stood the test of time, and bears much fruit.  With that kind of plan, it’s hard to doubt that you are dearly loved and will make it through life’s storms, and be the better for them.

tree rooted by waterP.S. Be sure to check out all the other bits of encouragement linked-up on the Coffee for Your Heart 2014 Encouragement Challenge!

Warm Wednesday Words: Hope for a New Year

As 2014 unfolds,  I hope you know how loved you are.   Regardless of whether you can fathom God’s love for you, the fact remains you are deeply and personally loved by a Savior that went to the cross to prove it.  He would’ve done it, had you been the only one in need.  But you’re not.  And the awesome and incredible thing is God loves you just as you are.

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Chalk up past mistakes and difficulties as unique experience and wisdom gained, and other than making any necessary amends, put the past behind you.  With a little contemplation, you are simply better equipped  for your future.

forgetting past

Know that in your humility is strength and do constant battle with that dangerously insidious and worst human vice of all, called pride.

pride

Let God make all things work together for good for you, by pressing into His will.  Since your calling is unique, keep your eyes on the goal and don’t compare to anyone else.  Value you’re work and contributions, disregarding any inapplicable disparagement from some who don’t understand your particular walk of life.

drum beat

Tap into the best friend ever.  God wants to connect with you in a most intimate way through worship and as you study His Word and  put it into practice.  C.S. Lewis said, “It is in the process of being worshiped that God communicates His presence to men.”

worship

You are worth the time it takes to pamper your body nutritionally and with physical fitness.  Your body hosts you, and you are irreplaceable to your family and friends.  You love them better when you take care of yourself.  If you’re married, guard that union and indulge often in the pleasures God afforded to it.   Prov. 19b (KJV), “Be thou ravished always with her love.”

beloved's

Keep a grateful, pure heart.  When you keep your heart stocked with gratefulness and are careful to pluck out that occasional weed of bitterness, then your happiness will overflow to others around you.  To be able to love others regardless of their reciprocation is powerful.  A gratitude list or journal is a great tool.

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Enjoy fellowship. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  (1 Peter 4:8) Nothing compares to the benefits that abound when we decide to continue in love.  Extend the same grace that you want God to extend to you for your worst moments, because what you give to others who have offended you is all you should expect from God.

sunset at church

Procure God’s favor by respecting the authorities in your life, whether in your family, a marriage, a job, society or in the church.  God likens us to sheep.  Picture a sheep deciding to strike out alone oblivious to the wolves lurking in the shadows.  To put yourself under appropriate, albeit imperfect, authority is to invite God’s blessing and favor on your life.

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May you know God’s abundant love for you and experience His favor and blessings on your life in the New Year.

 

P.S. Be sure to check out all the other bits of encouragement linked-up the Coffee for Your Heart 2014 Encouragement Challenge!

Forgiving

Amazing Grace

Many of us love the dear old hymn “Amazing Grace“, written by John Newton, a man, at least indirectly, responsible for who knows what all sorts of atrocities as he dealt in the slave trade, but saved by the same amazing grace that we all need just as much as he did.   So many other songs have also been written and composed along the theme of God’s amazing grace.   If we dare to think of our worst moments, (and most of us have had a few), we are exceedingly glad for the grace that flows down from the cross and covers us.  Those are moments that we would rather not be broadcast, despite that they may be forgiven history.  We delight in a God who moves our confessed sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12) when our hearts are penitent.  If there are some who can’t think of anything they’re ashamed of, then they likely deal with either forgetfulness or pride, but regardless, we were born with a need to be saved thanks to Adam and Eve.   C.S. Lewis considered pride to be the the essential vice, the utmost evil.  How can one admit his need for the grace of the cross when pride blinds him to it?

pride

Pride also causes us to have blind spots that allow us to judge others sins and consequences by our own experiences, culture’s standards, or our governmental system of justice.   Justice has it’s necessary and helpful purpose, of course, especially in regard to consequences and safety.  Though we can and should find comfort and relief in necessary steps to stop an injustice, generally, our purpose is to humbly pray for heart changes and for what we can do in our society to make a difference.  How often we involve ourselves in the news reports of someone’s sin with just a tad of satisfaction in the back of our minds that we would never do that.   I remember a pastor once saying regarding the worst of offenders, “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

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For most of us forgiveness is hardest when the infraction is personal.   In a just over two minute video,  Corrie ten Boom tells how we can actually let God do the hard work through us if we are just willing to take the next step (or, as she did, extend the hand). She said, “You see, you never so touch the ocean of God’s love as when you love your enemies.”

When we deal with forgiveness it helps to remember that we are only promised the amount of grace and forgiveness from God that we extend to others.  One of the hardest areas of forgiveness is when time has gone by and the offense was never dealt with, or perhaps continues.  (Outside of forgiveness, I am not referring to physically abusive situations here.)  But in emotional mind games,  subtle or outright meanness, bullying, betrayals, rejections, slights, “cold-shoulders”,  favoritism, backstabbing, etc., James 5:8-9 gives encouragement.  “You also must be patient.  Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Brothers do not complain about one another, so that you will not be judged.  Look, the judge stands at the door.”  “Patience is the attitude that can endure and bear suffering without getting angry…Patience is the evidence of the love inside of us…You win by waiting and trusting in God….When you complain against others, you put yourself in a position to be judged.”  (Lifeway Student Commentary, Fall 2013, Session 6)

A Series of Blunders and Grace

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My kids love the book series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events“.  I had one of those days recently that just began a series of unfortunate events, amidst some good times, too.   I had an early appointment; i.e. a long coffee chat with a friend at Art and Joe’s, and that was a wonderful time.  Then I got home in time to throw in some laundry, grab lunch, spiff up the house and settle down into a prayer date with another friend who came over.   We spent a couple hours together and after she left,  I was in BAD need of a nap.  Have you ever felt like there is no other option?  I completely empathize with toddlers who can fall asleep with all kinds of activity around them.  That is completely where I was, and exactly what I did.  Our driveway alarm has days of getting overzealous and loudly alarming us every time a car goes down our busy highway.  Then the Bostons start barking.  Today was one of those days.  Did it wake me?  Yes.  Probably a half dozen or more times.  I kept dreaming I should go shut it off, but then kept going back to sleep.  Just…too…tired.

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After waking one more time to the loud alarm and dogs barking, I decided to resume my day like a normal adult, though by now it was 5:00 p.m.   I went to the kitchen to begin dinner preparations with the small package of salmon I had thawed that morning and absentmindedly wondered when the 10th of the month would fall, because I knew I was due to have a meal to a mom in our church with new twin babies on that day.  I had  acquired all the ingredients well in advance to make a chicken enchilada casserole for her.  I glanced at the date on my phone  and  was shocked to realize it was today and the meal was due to her home in exactly one hour!

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Determined, to conquer a day that was quickly seeming out of my control, I did the only thing I could think of to salvage the situation and ordered the Casey’s Pizza special, which happened to be Taco Pizza.   Scratch the salmon.  Hubby will be thrilled with a pizza splurge, anyway.   Meantime, I threw together a  garden salad, and grabbed some of the home made butterfingers my teen daughter had made the other day and froze.   Voilà.   Sides ready and pizza nearly ready for pickup.  Amazingly, I had money in my account, which is usually down to nearly zero, so I could splurge on pizzas with my debit card.

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I would have just enough time to pick up the pizzas, shove a couple pieces down, have my daughter meet me to run the meal out and see the babies, send open pizza box back home with her for my family, while I went on to community choir practice, which was 7-9pm.  Feeling satisfied that I had rescued a spiraling day, my daughter and I made the  meal drop off (well…a few minutes late due to an odd house number situation), enjoyed a short visit with tired parents (who were grateful for pizza), and I headed off to choir, without the work pages done because the printer wouldn’t work today.   But, the songs and fellowship were fun and worship is always like a medicine to me.

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However, I  forgot my pencil that had been supplied in our notebooks.  Still being in the “learn and mark the music” phase, I had to constantly take turns using the pencil of a friend sitting next to me, until she kindly found one for me during the break.  Thankfully, she was  happy to help and was familiar with where to find things since it was her own church hosting us.  I still was feeling hopelessly scatter brained.

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Despite all the setbacks, I headed home satisfied that my husband would have enjoyed his pizza and we would watch one of our favorite shows to unwind and head to bed.  He did not tell me until the next day that he had not eaten any of the pizza because he hates Taco Pizza.  Oh, yeah, I knew that.  Why can’t I remember things that matter to others?

The next day I got an email saying my eagerly anticipated card order from “Heart Connection Club” had been canceled because of a payment problem.  Ergh!   THAT’s why I had money in my account.  Oh well, it went for a better purpose.

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Then I discovered the washing machine had something wrong with it and was leaking all over the floor.  Meantime, my husband and I were on the second or third day of some sort of tension that I didn’t even get (he would probably say the same thing).  Some days are just good to remind us that there are better days.  Ann Voskamp said in her devotional, “Music is made in stress…As the string bends, as the string arches in stress and then releases, it vibrates – and there is the offering…The resonance is in the surrender.”   Sometimes the surrender is in trusting God to give and cause grace to flow down and cover all our mistakes.  There are some things we can’t fix.  We just have to trust God!  And there IS grace.  But I did take the chicken enchilada meal a couple days later.

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And my husband and I enjoyed an evening of flowing grace and starting fresh.

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How has grace covered you lately?